What can you do in Girona if you have just 5 or 6 hours to spare?
Actually, quite a lot.
Our hotel was located in the centre of Girona, next to the Onyar river. We started out early after breakfast and followed the river northwards – passed the brightly painted façades of the houses – heading closer and closer to the unmissable Girona Cathedral.
Along the way we passed several bridges decorated with vibrant red hanging geraniums. Everywhere we looked, it seemed the locals were busy working on intricate and colourful street decorations. A common theme was chopped tree branches, which were painted in various colours and then arranged into interesting and surprising pieces of artwork. The whole town seemed to be alive with creative activity.
In fact, this was all in preparation for Girona Flower Time – the main event of the spring (from 7 to 15 May), with 179 floral projects spread throughout the city.
Heading up into the old and narrow alleyways of the Jewish Quarter, the path becomes progressively steeper. This area is atmospheric and steeped in history: No wonder they chose this and other locations in Girona for filming parts of Season 6 of A Game of Thrones.
It would have been nice to spend more time discovering these old streets and antiquated shopfronts, but we were keen to reach the Cathedral and the City Walls.
Eventually, we emerged into the sunshine of the a large piazza, and entrance to the cathedral. Entrance tickets cost €7 (or €5 for the over 60s).
The cathedral itself is interesting enough, housing an enormous central organ. Ranged around the interior walls are dozens of chapels dedicated to (and housing) the remains of prominent clergy. Some of these date back as far as the 10th century.
Included in the entry price are multi-language headphones that provide useful background and interesting anecdotes concerning the interred celebrities, as well as details on the construction of their chapels.
You can also visit a beautifully maintained interior courtyard centred on a giant well and decorated with coloured flowers.
For myself, the most interesting area was the Cathedral Treasury and Museum – a series of five antechambers containing a variety of artefacts dating back over a thousand years.
These include a bible originally belonging to King Henry II, as well as the Gerona Beatus – a 10th-century illustrated manuscript. Here, you can also find the oldest and best maintained tapestry in Europe – The Tapestry of Creation – dating back incredibly to the 10th century.
The City Walls
On exiting the Cathedral, we walked around the back of the buildings where we could follow a path that rose progressively higher. This leads to the ancient walls of the city of Girona.
We walked the length of the walls, this time heading south back towards the city centre. Along the walls are a number of observation towers which you can mount for terrific views over the city and across to the snow-capped Pyrenees.
Along the battlements we came across what I can only describe as a medieval stone loo built into a recessed section of the wall. This was basically a stone seat with a hole cut through the centre, leading to the outer wall. No doubt handy in the heat of battle, or if you just wanted to show the enemy what you thought of them.
Tempted as I was, we decided to give it a miss.
A walk along the entire length of the walls took around 45 minutes, and brought us back almost directly to our hotel in the city centre.
Another fun attraction in town is the Lleona, an odd-looking limestone statue in the Plaça de Sant Fèlix. The legend is that if you mount the steps and kiss his shiny bottom, you will return to Girona.
There is a Konig beer terrace just alongside where you can take a beer and watch the antics of tourists checking out the statue.
After spending the day visiting the Cathedral, the old town, city walls, and checking out the shops, we were ready to eat. We had earmarked 3 promising restaurants, but the one we chose provided a truly gastronomique end to our day.
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